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Vandaneeya Laxmibai Kelkar - The founder Pramukh Sanchalika of Rashtra Sevika Samiti

Vidarbha is a very fertile land producing enriching crops. Not only that but it has produced outstanding personalities who have preciously given a new dimension to the history of this land. Realisation of the mantra is the prestigious honour of this small region. Sangh and Samiti, the two major Hindu organisations of Akhil Bharateeya status, have their origin in this region.

The culturally gifted family of Datey at Nagpur presented a brilliant personality in the form of their daughter, named Kamal born on Ashadh Shukla 10 Shake 1827 i.e. 5th July 1905. Kamal was very sensitive, having keen observation power she assimilated the sense of Service from her elder aunt. Deep devotion towards motherland, dauntless spirit, resoluteness, organising capacity and many such qualities were transfused in her from her parents. Shri Bhaskarrao Datey, V. Mausiji's father, was working in A-G's office at Nagpur. In those days of foreign rule, purchasing and reading newspapers like Kesari edited by Shri. Lokmanya Tilakji, was looked upon as an act of treason by the foreign rulers. Kamal's mother Smt. Yashodabai, used to purchase that paper and have a combined reading, calling all the ladies nearby to hear. She professed that she was not a Govt. employee as such, not liable to be governed by the rules applicable to them and was therefore, free to do anything in her personal capacity.

After some hot discussion with the nun teacher of the mission school regarding school prayer, Kamal discontinued going to the missionary school. After the establishment of Hindu Girls School, Kamal was admitted there but could not continue her studies due to some inevitable circumstances. Her academic career came to an end. But by her vast general reading she got well acquainted with the history and culture of this land as well as the state of affairs prevailing in those days.

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Kamal was determined not to marry a man demanding dowry. Fortunately she was successful and was married to Shri Purusottamrao Kelkar, a well known advocate of Wardha. She was re named as Laxmi according to the custom prevailing in Maharashtrian families Shri Kelkar had two small daughters from his first marriage. Young Laxmi had to undertake primarily the role of being their mother more than being a wife of a husband. Destiny wanted to test her qualities of motherhood as she had to be the mother of a number of girls throughout the country and gain the capacity to bestow motherly affection on them.

Young Laxmi, gifted with the spirit of patriotism, sacrifice, social consciousness and service could not remain idle or be satisfied in doing household work only. She was just looking for a chance to be able to participate again in freedom activities, of which the centre was Sevagram near Wardha. It was difficult for the dignified family of Kelkar to digest this idea as a matter of natural course. Managing efficiently the home front, she won over the good will and co operation of her sisters in law and gradually started to attend the meetings, prabhat pheries and such other programmes. She also took the opportunity of hearing the top most leaders of freedom movement. Law defiance movement was at its top. Laxmi was taking note of the gradual change in the social psyche. It came to her mind that the defiance of law which was used as a means to harass the foreign power, may take an unwanted turn to lawlessness in free Bharat and may lead to a chaos, if not controlled sternly. Obtaining political freedom was a must, but a proper channel inspiring the people to devote themselves to social and national duties and to abide by the laws and rules of a free country was also utterly essential. Then only the long cherished ideal of Ramraj could be a reality. She thought that every citizen of free Bharat must come forward readily with the firm common will and a total identification with the national interests, ancient glories,culture and traditions of Bharat. The sense of self respect and service to motherland before self was to be encouraged. How to put it into practice was a problem.

During this period some eminent personalities were putting efforts for women's education and their allround progress. Due to western impact women were struggling for equal rights and economical freedom. That was leading to individual progress only, inviting self-centred-ness. There was every risk of women being non committed to love, sacrifice, service and other inborn qualities glorifying Hindu women. Of course, it was quite necessary to attain the prestigious position, in family and society, which was denied to her due to wrong ideas. Some periodicals published very cheap and vulgar pictures of women on the cover page. There was an outpour of news of sedition of women. Many women were attracted to the new easy going and showy way of western life. Forgetting their own self they were fascinated by the idea of equal rights and economic freedom. This unnatural change in the attitude of women might have led to disintegration of family, the primary and most important unit of imparting good Sanskaras. This was worrying Laxmibai. She heard Gandhiji advising the ladies to follow the life of Sita and Savitri. So she studied Ramayana as well as Mahabharat. She was also attracted towards the literature of Swami Vivekananda who professed that man and woman are equally important constituents of the nation, just like the two wings of a bird and both be equally trained for the national consciousness. Mausiji passed a restless time before coming to the conclusion that women should boldly come forward and bear the responsibility to solve the precarious problems.

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In the meantime Vandaneeya Mausiji lost her husband in 1932 and was required to look after her eight children and a vast property. She gathered courage and faced the situation without surrendering her self respect. She was introduced to R. S. S. work through her sons. She was keenly observing the way of working based on individual contact, mutual love and voluntary discipline. It flashed to her that such organisational type of work amongst women, can meet the challenge of the time. Building up character, creating sense of patriotism and disciplined organisation was utmost necessary. Fortunately P. P. Dr. Hedgewar was to visit Wardha Shakha of R. S. S. With the help of local workers including Shri Appaji Joshi, she got an opportunity to see him. In their meeting Vandaneeya Mausiji expressed the urgency of organising the Hindu women on cultural and national basis. P. P. Doctorji, gifted with divine vision, was convinced and he conceded to the proposal provided V. Mausiji accepted all the responsibility in this respect. After having a number of rounds of free and friendly discussions, Rashtra Sevika Samiti came into existence in 1936 at Wardha on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami.

Pujaneeya Doctorji reiterated that in the interest of both the organisations, Sangh and Samiti should function independently but with mutual co operation, just like the parallel lines which go in the same direction, but never meet maintaining a specified distance between them. He promised all help and guidance in the beginning and abided by it. Still he stressed that Samiti should function independently.

P. P. Doctorji was the originator of the technique and mechanism of the science of orgnisation in modern era. Technique of any science is same for all creeds. Still the basic principles and philosophy of women's life in Bharat is quite different from that of men. As such Vandaneeya Mausiji accepted the modus operandi of Sangh, but She herself sketched the working plan of Samiti's work, and executed it to the minutest details very efficiently.

Vandaneeya Mausiji was good at nursing which is an important factor in curing any illness. It also proved very much beneficial in organisational work because she had to nurse a number of minds ailing from weaknesses of all kinds. It was really an ordeal in those days, for a young, socially and economically well placed widow to get engaged in such a type of work in which prestige, honour, publicity were far away nay they were never to be aspired for. Vandaneeya Mausiji had to face a lot of comments from her own people also. She faced them calmly but firmly. though many tried to exploit the situation. Vandaneeya Mausiji got herself trained in all the physical exercises, cycling, swimming etc. In the beginning She was too shy in delivering speeches. Smt. Venutai Kalamkar used to do it on her behalf; but gradually through her perseverance and firm will, She acquired most of the qualities demanded to lead the organisation.

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The physical training syllabus of Samiti was finalised by Vandaneeya Mausiji in consultation with her co workers as well as some well known physicians and Yogavidnyana experts. She professed Hindutwa, the basic principle of Samiti with new relevance. She convinced many women to promote and protect it, through natural process of Sanskaras imparted in homes. The concept of Hindu women's life was quite clear to her and she introduced the worship of Devi Ashtabhuja a symbol of realisation of Hindu women's image. it is a symbol of integrated society, women's chastity, purity, boldness, affection, alertness etc. It is the divine mother power that can build up a character based society.

Vandaneeya Mausiji toured with her small son to spread the network of Samiti Shakhas. In those days there were no facilities of berth or seat reservations. There was no schedule for buses also as most services were run by private parties. It was quite strenuous and risky to travel alone but having immense faith in God, Mausiji travelled with dedicated motive. She had to balance between her duties towards family and nation.

Through her planned exertion Samiti gradually attained Akhil Bharateeya status. But it was essential that all sevikas should also experience it. It was not sufficient only to arrange meetings, so Sammelan of Akhil Bharateeya nature was desirable and that was arranged first in 1945 at Bombay. Since then such Sammelans are being regularly arranged at every three years. V. Mausiji attended last the Bhagyanagar Sammelan in 1978, when she appealed all the sevikas to develop the seven inborn qualities of women, described in Geeta.

V. Mausiji was insulted many a time by many a people while working for Samiti but she did not mind it saying that life mission is greater than a person. Though she respected Bharateeya Sanskriti she was not that orthodox and readily accepted any change, if she was convinced that it was necessary and beneficial to the mission she had undertaken.

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Vandaneeya Mausiji had felt the necessity of entering into the educational field long back in 1945. Some Shishu Mandirs were opened but in 1953 Gruhini Vidyalaya was opened in Bombay later on, to give it an Akhil Bharateeya Status, a new trust Bharateeya Shree Vidya Niketan was registered in 1983. The object was to reorganise the system of girls' education, befitting to the traditions of this land.

V. Mausiji regarded Shri Ramayan, Mahabharata and Bhagawat as the vital source of energy. She studied these scriptures and epics very deeply in her young age and started delivering discourses on them, convincing the younger generation, that Shri Ram and Shri Krishna should be looked upon as national heroes. She felt that every woman must possess firm will, sanctity of thoughts and deeds, self-protecting spiritual power like Sita and Draupadi. A number of people thronged to hear her sweet, ringing voice and logical interpretation. She could obtain many ardent workers for Samiti through these means.

Vandaneeya Mausiji was very punctual, particularly neat and clean. She had a high sense of appreciation for qualities and art noticed in others. Many picture exhibitions were effectively arranged because of her encouragement only. She was equally good at cooking. She had a high asthetic sense. Being self-reliant she took many decisions, which proved beneficial in the long term, though they were heavily commented upon in the beginning. She knew by heart most of the Samiti songs and it was her practice to sing the songs by rotation at the time of her daily evening prayer. The idea of leadership was quite clear in her mind. She used to say that the leader should be only two steps ahead, so that in the absence of the leader, the followers would be easily able to fill up the gap, not allowing any void. She never liked to centralize all attention toward her only. In her last illness she was very much displeased when the state meeting of one state was postponed because of her illness. Such an impersonal attitude is very rarely found in the present time. She had many future plans for the work but unfortunately could not put them into practice. She was very much affectionate and loving like a mother but was equally strict as a general in organizational work.

Death does not discriminate anybody and we are taught that whoever is born has to leave this world one day; but to leave it with powerful and deep imprints is something rare. Every Sevika thought that Mausiji loved her more and was overwhelmed with sorrow at her departure on 27th November 1978 i. e. Kartika Krishna 12, the day on which Sant Shri Dnyaneshwar attained Samadhi. The news of her sad demise was broadcast on the Akashvani. Individual intimation also passed on from person to person. Innumerable men and women rushed to pay their last homage. Even the doctors treating her in the Medical College Hospital had developed homely intimacy with her. They as well as the staff there were overwhelmed with grief. She had become a source of affection there and reverence also. Most of the staff started working only after wishing her well.

It was a unique experience and sight hundreds of women joining the funeral of any woman, in a disciplined way. On the way to Ambazari Ghat her body rested in Shree Shakti Peeth, which was her creation but unfortunately was turned into her memorial. Samiti Prayer and last Pranam was offered. On 28th evening her journey to eternity started, leaving behind ever inspiring memories. Next day on 29th, Rani Laxmibai's birth, anniversary was celebrated as per her last desire, by giving a guard of honor by the Ghosh gana ( Band Squad ) of Samiti.

Though V. Mausiji is not physically present now, her life will be a constant source of inspiration to thousands of Sevikas and also to many others. Her real monument is Samiti work throughout the country.

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